Thailand will next week mark three important occasions in the life of Buddha with a national holiday named Visakha Bucha Day. This day marks the day Buddha was born on, his spiritual beatification and the day he passed away. The holiday allows Thai Buddhists to visit their local temples and make donations in honour of Buddha.
The Buddhist calendar is not the same as the one used by Western countries and this means Visakha Bucha is not on the same date every year. Visakha Bucha Day 2018 falls on Tuesday 29 May and in 2019 on Saturday 18 May. The date is dictated by the full moon on the sixth month of the old lunar calendar used in Thailand.
Chiang Mai celebrates Visakha Bucha with a special walk up Doi Suthep mountain to the landmark Phra That Doi Suthep Temple. The walk takes place on the evening before Visakha Bucha (28 May 2018) and walkers generally start the climb at 19:00. The footpath to the temple is quite steep, 11kms long and requires walkers to be in a reasonable state of health.
There are usually volunteers who serve water at strategic points on the trail. After arrival at Doi Suthep Temple, walkers carry out a traditional rite called wian tian in which they walk around the main chedi three times with lighted candles in their hands. Songtheaw shared taxis await those who have completed the walk for the ride back down Doi Suthep.